Historical Women in Agriculture

In the United States female producers make up 36% of the farmers, 56% of the farms have at least one female producer, 38% of the farms have a female primary producer, meaning the person making the most decisions on the farm is a female, and 9 percent of all farms are run entirely by women. [1][2] The top state for female producers is Arizona according to the 2017 USDA census, followed up next by Alaska. Texas has 156,233 female producers, which is the highest of all the states. [3]

In honor of Women’s History Month I wanted to take a few minutes and highlight a few women who have made some significant contributions to the agriculture community.

Harriet Williams Russell Strong was widowed at a very young age and she needed a way to support her 4 daughters and a way to save her ranch. Mrs. Strong had pioneered new methods of conserving flood waters and irrigating which she used to supply water for her walnut and olive trees. Through these pioneering efforts she was able to pay off the debt on her land and became a leading grower of walnuts in the county where she lived. [4] Later in life Mrs. Strong invented the use of a dam system to help conserve water for irrigation purposes and to help create electricity along the Colorado River, for these efforts she was awarded two medals by the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago IL in 1893. [5]

Temple Grandin is an American scientist and activist who is well known in the agriculture community, she is a leader and an expert on the humane treatment of livestock and she has written more than 60 scientific papers on animal behavior. Ms. Grandin is also an advocate for autism, and to this day she tours all around giving speeches to raise awareness about people living with autism, she is currently working for the College of Agriculture Sciences at Colorado State University. If you ever get an opportunity to hear her speak I highly recommend you take full advantage of that opportunity, she is fascinating to listen to and is a wealth of knowledge in animal science. [6] My friend Jason Medows had the privilege of having her as a guest on his podcast, Ag State of Mind. Her interview with Jason can be found on most podcast platforms.

Dr. Maria Andrade is a scientist who worked with her colleagues to develop nine varieties of sweet potatoes that were drought tolerant for farmers in Africa. These sweet potatoes were bred to not only thrive in the harsh environment but they were used to counteract vitamin A deficiencies for farmers and consumers in the region. In 2016 Dr. Andrade was awarded the 2016 world food prize for her work in bio fortification and the sweet potato which served to alleviate malnutrition in millions of people. [7]

Last November I wrote a blog post about a woman who shared her struggles as a female in the male dominated agriculture industry, if you have not read this blog post yet, you should give it a quick read to learn more about Ms. Avelar. https://hankwade.com/2020/11/16/thania-damaris-avelar/

Lastly last August I had the great opportunity to co-write an article with Bridgette Readel, who is a technical agronomist, to help celebrate the 100 year anniversary of when women gained the right to vote, Bridgette did a great job of highlighting her thought about women and what their history means to her, https://hankwade.com/2020/08/19/100-years-ago-women-got-the-right-to-vote/

[1] https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Highlights/2019/2017Census_Female_Producers.pdf

[2] https://psmag.com/news/ag-census-finds-more-female-farmers-than-ever

[3] https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Highlights/2019/2017Census_Female_Producers.pdf

[4] https://www.womenofthehall.org/inductee/harriet-williams-russell-strong/

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Williams_Russell_Strong

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Grandin

[7] https://www.worldfoodprize.org/en/events/laureate_award_ceremony/2016_ceremony/

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